The Food Foundation’s Broken Plate report finds it is increasingly difficult for children to be healthy and includes improving school food in its recommendations.
The charity’s annual report looks at ten different metrics covering the affordability, availability and appeal of the food people need to be eating more of to improve their health, and the health of the planet. It finds that a healthy and sustainable diet is becoming increasingly difficult to access, particularly for those with the lowest incomes.
The Broken Plate refers to various worsening child health outcomes. These health outcomes are also worsening at a higher rate for children from the most deprived backgrounds. It is not fair that a child’s health can depend on their postcode. We know that school food provides a great opportunity to support children’s health from early on, with quality nutrition.
In its report, The Food Foundation discusses the absence of government checks on school food against the school food standards. The Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here scheme is used to exemplify a voluntary quality assurance mechanism for school food. However, only 25% of English and 47% of Scottish state schools subscribe, meaning that for a large proportion of those not accredited it is not known what food is served.
Progress is being made on ensuring school food quality. Thanks to campaigning by School Food Matters and other members of the School Food Review Working Group, the government launched a series of initiatives to ‘level up’ school food. These include requiring schools to publish arrangements for their ‘whole school approach’ to food on their websites, and the Food Standards Agency piloting inspections with local authorities.
Accreditation schemes provide a supportive framework for schools and caterers to deliver consistently tasty, nutritious and sustainable food, as part of a whole school approach to good food. We encourage the government to require schools to be accredited, as recommended in the National Food Strategy.
We fully support the recommendations of The Broken Plate. In addition, one solution that adds a nutritional safety net for children, can put money back in parents’ pockets, and also provide a boost to the workforce, is allowing more children to access a free school meal.
We believe that school food should be a consistent and non-partisan priority for government. We use our real-world experience of working in schools to strengthen our campaigns on children’s health, access to nutritious school meals and food education.